The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday that Jorge Palacios, a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13), was convicted of the 2001 murder of a 13-year-old girl. years, who before his death was raped.
The Prosecutor’s Office stated that Palacios, 38, had ordered the murder of the minor Jacqueline Piazza almost two decades ago. His order was executed, according to the indictment, by three members of the MS-13 gang identified as Rogelio Contreras, Melvin Sandoval and Santos Grimaldi, aged 40, 38 and 35 respectively.
The three suspects, who face charges in a separate trial, allegedly kidnapped the girl and transported her in the trunk of a car to a remote area of the Elysian Park where she was raped and killed, according to the data presented by the prosecutors.
The naked body of the small victim was discovered on June 28, 2001 with two shots to the head, but the case remained unresolved until 2012 when the detectives at the head of the investigation uncovered allegations that linked gang members with the death of Piazza.
The arrest of the alleged killers was achieved through collaboration between the agents of the Robbery and Homicide division and the Gangs and Narcotics Department.
Although the Attorney General’s statement does not specify why the child was the target of this deadly attack in 2001, a report published by the Los Angeles Times indicates that Palacios considered the girl a threat to her criminal operations.
The night of the homicide, the report indicates, Palacios and his partner at that time beat Piazza before handing it over to the other three suspects.
Prosecutor Rachel Green told the jury that Palacios “had a problem” with the 13-year-old victim and “considered that he had the perfect solution.”
Green also noted during the trial that the teenager was not a member of any gang. “Just by seeing her, it was known that she was a normal girl, not a gang member,” the prosecutor explained.
Lawrence Forbes, Palacios’ defense attorney, tried to argue that his client did not occupy a sufficiently high rank within the MS-13 to order the execution of a victim. The gang member would have joined the criminal organization to “avoid paying taxes” on the drugs he sold, Forbes said.
However, the jury found Palacios guilty of a crime of murder in the first degree and a charge of kidnapping to commit a rape. The panel also established as valid the special circumstances added to the formal accusation, which established that the crime occurred in the commission of a sexual assault and lewd acts against a child.
The defendant was also charged with charges related to guns and gang activities.
Palacios could be sentenced to life imprisonment and will have to appear before the courts again on April 11. The trial of the three alleged accomplices of the murder of Jacqueline Piazza will begin the phase of the final arguments on Monday, March 5.